Enlargement

  • Helicopter surveys flood damage in Bosnia (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

EU countries send aid for Bosnia, Serbia floods

20.05.14 @ 09:26

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

BRUSSELS - A dozen EU countries have sent equipment to Bosnia and Serbia to help them deal with “the incredible force of nature” of springtime floods.

EU aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva told press on Monday (19 May) the equipment includes helicopters, boats, tents, water pumps, water purification kits, medicine, food, mountain-going trucks and around 450 disaster relief experts.

She noted that some landslides have disturbed wartime landmines, posing a threat to people trying to dig out their possessions.

“Houses have been buried … in areas where there is a need for de-mining and the EU will be looking into how to assist with this problem for the local population.”

She warned that while forecasts indicate less rain, sunny weather poses a danger of melting mountain snows.

“The risks [of these kinds of events] are more severe than ever due to climate change,” she added.

The member states offering assistance include: Austria; Belgium; Bulgaria; the Czech Republic; Croatia; France; Germany; Latvia; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Slovenia; and the UK. The US and Russia have also sent help.

Georgieva noted that as an “associate” EU country further down the road to membership, Serbia will be eligible for up to €1 billion in reconstruction money from the European Solidarity Fund, but Bosnia will have to look to “different” EU budget lines.

With Bosnia hamstrung by administrative failures in its normal day-to-day life, she praised the way the country has “mobilised from the bottom-up” to withstand “the incredible force of nature”.

Heavy rainfall in the region began on 13 May, with the two Balkan states formally filing for EU assistance four days later.

The flooding has affected 1 million people in Bosnia and 300,000 in Serbia, with some 500,000 evacuated from their homes and at least 47 killed.

In Serbia, the water also threatens to damage the country’s biggest power plant, the Nikola Tesla complex near Belgrade.

Bosnia is said to have about 120,000 unexploded landmines in more than 9,400 sites dating from its 1992 to 1995 war.

Many of them were buried near river banks and have already killed some 600 people and wounded 1,110 in accidents over the past 20 years.

"Water and landslides have possibly moved some mines and taken away mine warning signs … [people] must be extremely cautious when they start cleaning their houses, land, or gardens as the remaining mud could hide mines and other explosive devices brought by rivers,” Sasa Obradovic, from Bosnia’s Mine Action Centre told AFP.